#AR303 18th Century 'Warabe Gusoku' (Armour Made To Be Worn By A Child)

Children of high ranking samurai were trained from a very early age to master both the martial and political skills required to maintain and promote their exalted status.

Wearing armour at such a young age built both body strength and would give the child confidence for his future role in warrior society. For the most part, armours made for children are of poor, tinny quality due the expense of making it and the speed with which the child would outgrow it. However, this armour is a very notable exception.

This armour comprises a small sixty two plate 'hoshi kabuto' (helmet with standing rivets). Each plate is rivetted in twenty nine places, totaling one thousand seven hundred and ninety eight rivets. The 'tehen kanagu' (metal fitting at the top of the bowl) is composed of six tiers of beautifully worked 'shakudo' and gilded copper. The 'mabisashi (peak) and 'fukigaeshi' (turnbacks) are covered with thick gold leaf .The 'kuwagata dai' (holder for the gilded hoe) is similarly decorated and florally scrolled. Between the 'kuwagata' sits a superbly carved, gilded wood dragon 'maedate' decoration. The 'manju shikoro' (neck guard of rounded form) is made of five lames of gilded 'kiritsuke kozane' (false scales) laced in orange silk 'kebiki odoshi' (close spaced lacing). Each corner of the bottom lame of the 'shikoro' (neck guard) is decorated with a gilded 'inome' (literally meaning boar's eye) shaped fitting (this is always a sign of great quality.

The russet iron 'ryubu men' (mask of noble expression) is of fine patina, with the interior lacquered red with a four lame 'kiritsuke kozane tare' (throat guard of false scales).

The cuirasse is made of black lacquered iron in 'okegawa' (barrel) form. The interior is covered in gold leaf. The 'muna-ita' (top of breast plate), 'waki ita' (under arm plates) and 'se-ita' (top of back plate) are decorated with stencilled doe skin. Spectacular 'shakudo' fittings adorn the back plate and breast plate in the form of 'kiri mon' (paulownia heraldry). From the large 'shakudo agemaki no kan' hangs a large orange silk bow on the back plate. The breast plate is decorated in gold 'maki-e' lacquer clouds surrounding a coiled dragon. The collar and shoulders are fitted with heavily European influenced ruffs of multi coloured 'chirimen' silk. The 'kusazuri' (skirt) is divided into seven parts, each of five lames. each corner of the bottom lame is fitted with a gilded 'inome'.

The 'chu sode' (medium sized shoulder guards) are made of seven lames of gilded 'kiritsuke kozane'. Each carries more 'kiri mon shakudo' metal work on the top lames and on the fourth lames. The bottom corners sport an 'inome' each.

The lovely 'hyotan gote' (sleeves with gourd shaped decorations on the forearms) have further gilded iron fittings among the chain mail. Unusually the hands can be unbuttoned, the cuffs have European style silk ruffs.

The 'haidate' (thigh protection) is similarly constructed of the same weave of chain mail and gilded iron fittings. The 'shino tsuneate' (shin guards) are also of the same chain mailweave. The 'tateage' (top part of the shin guards) are made of blue silk into which iron hexagons have been sewn.

The linings of the 'haidate', 'kote' and 'tsuneate' are made of extrememly fine quality florally patterned silk. this superb armour is stored in a black leather bound box.

This armour carries papers from the internationally recognised Japan Arms and Armour Research and Preservation Society', declaring it to be 'JUYO BUNKA SHIRYO' (important cultural example). This is the highest grade of papering an armour may receive.